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Sunday, April 20, 2008
BIKE ADVOCACY, IS IT FOR EVERYONE?
Well, it should be. For those expecting a How-To article, bad news, this isn't it. Be warned, I'm pulling the soap box and I'm about to vent. So either you go back to Google or get yourself a drink and read on.
Back in January I participated in a "Bike Show" protest type of event outside the building holding the annual car show. I found it was a neat idea to have such an event in the cold of winter and decided to join in. The event was a lot of fun and to my surprise a lot of people attended. It was great to see that the City had some real hardcore people that believed in the cause. I figured if such an event was held for real during the warmer months in a more convenient venue, it would be awesome. Will it did happen this week end, a lot of people showed up, it was great with lots of cool bikes and...I missed it! No ones fault but mine. I tried to do three different things in one day, I planned my day poorly, got lost like an idiot and finally showed up when every body was packing.
This is where, in a nanosecond, this article was born. When I got there with my daughter, we were riding our scooters back from our first club ride. The looks we got from some of the attendees would have made you think we had just slaughtered a beluga whale or dumped a ton of bunker oil right there on the pavement!
We recently managed to pay off our big gas guzzling mini van that my better half loves profusely and that I hate with a passion. Our current situation makes it so that living without a car is impossible. I tried to motivate my honey to bike to work, but it just didn't happen. I even forked the bucks for an electric assist bike, but to no avail. After getting my daughter her scooter last summer, I figured that it would be a much better idea to get one for me and my wife so it could be used for her to go to work and for distant errands instead of the pos mini van. Using the scooter 7 months a year would also stretch the life of the gas guzzler so we wouldn't have to buy another car for a while. Being a newbie at scooting, joining a club is a great way to network, get educated and having some fun. low and behold, my sweetheart is crazy about it and now we will burn 10 times less fuel during those 7 months. Trust me, the fact that I managed to pull this off is close to a miracle, she just loves that mini van!
So by now you're thinking, "what's this got to do with bike advocacy?", absolutely everything. Those looks reminded me that bike advocacy has in it's mist some, willing and unwilling, snobs. Bike advocates are a great bunch, I know a lot of them. Some might say that they aim for Utopia and that's fine. Ever heard of somebody working hard to get to the middle of anything? Neither have I. However, this can be harmful to the cause where people can become purists and expect everybody else to do so. What happens is that the masses get pushed aside unless they completely adhere to the philosophy and the movement just slows down to a crawl.
Bike advocacy must appeal to the masses because the masses are the target, not just a few people who are willing to change their way of life completely overnite. If you keep going in this direction, you'll be preaching just to the choir pretty fast. What the movement needs to do now is to look at the "enemy" and start doing what they do, appeal to the masses. Wally World and the such use mass appeal to get people to buy crap and people do because it's easy. Anybody is welcomed to go in there and throw there money on stuff they don't really need, it's cool, it's great and it's fun. Is it really? Of course not, but people think it is. On the other hand, biking is easy and fun...I mean for real. There's half the selling job already done.
Bike advocates must welcome anyone that is willing to throw a leg over a bike, even if it's once a week. Why should we care if they don't recycle every thing at home or still drive the car because it's raining? Habit comes with use and those people might change their ways in a not so distant future. Even if they don't, at least they will have made a contribution where none was present before. A war is won with many little battles as well, not just big ones.
If you are an open minded bike velorutionary and welcome every one to the fold, I admire you and support you. I do hope that there are many of you out there and I tend to believe that there is. As for the bike advocate snobs, stop it! You are putting the tire pump in the spokes of a great and necessary movement. Sell biking, not how we should be living.
I shall now step off the soap box, peace.
p.s. The scooter has in no way killed off my passion for bikes. If anything it reminded me that you are totally free on a bicycle.